Why is There a Hole in Bucatini?
Browsing the menu at dinner, I came across a dish called ‘Spicy Shrimp Bucatini’. “Which one is bucatini?” I thought to myself, mentally scrolling through a multitude of pasta shapes. I had no idea. The pasta connoisseur in me had to know.
“What is bucatini?” I asked the waitress.
“It’s similar to spaghetti, but with a hole through the middle.”
My mind began racing. What does she mean “with a hole through the middle?” Does the hole go all the way through the noodles? “Ok, I’ll have that, please,” I said.
I waited excitedly for my food. Conjuring up various mental images of what this mysterious noodle would look like, taste like, and feel like. After what felt like forever, my dish arrived. They were long and moderately thick like spaghetti. The hole was thin, too small for a prong on my fork to fit through, and went right through the center of the noodle. The sauce-retention was outstanding because the hole in the middle maximized the surface area. They were cooked through yet firm, perfectly al dente.
I looked up to find my entire family staring at me, puzzled as to why I was so thoroughly examining my meal.
After explaining my interest in the nature of the bucatini, they were even more confused. I went through the rest of the dinner eating like a normal person but smiling on the inside.
I returned home on a mission: to find out how to put a hole through the center of a noodle. With some research, I found that it requires a special tool called a pasta extruder. Many of which cost upwards of $100. New plan: it wouldn’t be perfect, but I would recreate my own version without the expensive machinery.
I approached my task as I would for any engineering project, developing a list of materials and constructing a procedure that mapped out how I’d mix, cut, and roll the pasta.
I scoured through the pantry for all-purpose flour and olive oil just as I rummaged through the iGEM lab for Agarose and TAE buffer earlier that week.
Ingredients ready, it was only a matter of mathematics to combine them in the right proportions. I divided the recipe by three to conserve resources. Then applied the order of operations. Adding the flour first. Then the eggs. And finally the olive oil. Making sure each flour particle got its fair share of oil and egg, I created my first batch of dough. After rolling it into a rectangular sheet, I analyzed the data on my cutting board, noticing a network of cracks. I deduced that there was too much flour.
Through numerous rounds of trial and error, I finally made the perfect dough. It pained me to roll it out. I cut and rolled it into what resembled bucatini. Then popped them into 100 degrees Celsius H20 with just the right amount of NaCl. Would my hypothesis of perfectly tubular noodles be confirmed into the theory of General Bucatini? Or would the pasta be an imposter?
The noodles were wide, the hole was large, and they were overcooked. I might have to save up for a pasta extruder after all.
I approach the world as I did the bucatini, always curious and seeking to understand rather than simply accept. It’s not enough to know how to do a math problem. But I need to know why it’s done that way. I’ve never been afraid of airplanes because I researched how lift and thrust work together to keep the giant metal tube airborne. After wondering why my morning coffee wakes me up, I found that the caffeine tricks neuroreceptors in my brain. No, the bucatini didn’t turn out perfect. But my curiosity led me to explore the world of the kitchen and something new– something of my own. I look forward to making “bucatini” wherever I go.
Why is There a Hole in Bucatini? by Ben Stewart